Thursday, May 12, 2005

Shop Talk

Yesterday Monica wrote a top ten list on reasons writers are scared of their own blogs. That prodded me on something I've been avoiding around here.

When I'm not ranting, making ten lists, or bragging about my wonderful children who can do no wrong and I'll smack down anyone who says otherwise, I talk about work. That was the idea in going public with PBW, to talk about the reality of it, and to get other perspectives on the table. I rarely talk about my work, though, except from the technical/career perspective or in shorthand: Got the cover art, killed the deadline, sold this or that.

I'd rather joke about my work than talk serious about it. Part of that comes from my belief that you have to be able to laugh at yourself and this gig, or it'll kill you. Jokes are also good velvet ropes. They keep everyone from getting too close. Close enough to see what I'm really doing behind the joke ropes is close enough to hack, slash, throw acid, torch, or make me hand out bookmarks again. No, thank you.

Then there's talking the talk. You know those writers out there who are really good at that dignified, authorial work-speak? They write stuff like:

Today I explored the inner sanctum of despair, and added a final, top note of irony to bring home how the protagonist's magnificent love has been utterly squandered. I'm not entirely pleased with the outcome, but it's adequate for the first draft.

I can't do that. God did not give me that gene. Whenever I try to put how I honestly feel about my work into words, it sounds like this entry I wrote today in my on-paper journal:

He's holding back, making me wait until the tune he wants starts. Then we dance. I don't know the steps. Everything about him is stomping on my toes. He's smirking, loves it, the jerk. I get that. He hurts because it's the only way he thinks he can make others feel anything. Doesn't make me like him any better.

Sounds like a sixteen-year-old's diary, written in pink ink. All I need to do is dot my i's with little hearts and scrawl in the margin but he might call me tonite then omigod what do I say????

I hate being afraid of anything, so might as well face it head-on. I've got this book I'm about to start writing that I've been waiting a long time to put on paper. It's going to be a major book for me, writer-wise. I'll try talking about how it goes, and see if I can be honest without reliving my Stridex years.


  1. Anonymous12:51 AM

    As a relatively new subscriber to your RSS feed, I'm wondering if the "keep everyone at arm's length" thing is also an extension of the eclectic nature of the internet and blogging in general.

    If, for example, you're gearing up to write a book that is going to take a lot of time and energy to write, you probably won't want various wags coming along and second-guessing the work in progress. I'm thinking you want to write it your way, through thick and thin, and have the satisfaction of a job well done at the end privately.

    I noticed right away that you only speak in generalities when it comes to your own writing: The book is starting, the book is coming along, the book is finished, the book is sold. It's not a bad approach to blogging, as such, it just takes everyone else out of the process. But such is professional writing, no? (Like I know.)

    I really enjoy your blog and your insights. I look forward to more! Thanks!

  2. Anonymous1:08 AM

    I've found that it's impossible for me to talk about a work in progress. Any work in progress, from a 500 word article to a novel. The best and only explanation is the work itself. Everything else is either boring, gibberish, or both.

    Or maybe that's just an excuse to stay behind the velvet ropes.

  3. Anonymous1:32 AM

    For me, it's just plain weird to talk about the work because it's such a slippery beast (and I'm sure folks get tired of hearing me say "Honest, Officer, I just make shit up.") and how mostly I feel like I'm in the dark stumbling over things and trying to describe what they are.

    I think it's great that you do what you do because after more than 2 dozen books, you know the drill. You know what's real and what's feel good BS. I understand the need for velvet ropes too. Keep your distance. These aren't the insights you're looking for. Move along, move along.

    That's another struggle. How can you write about the work in progress, the current project/problem/solution/epiphany without spoiling the story yet to come? How can you talk about the characters and plot and thematic elements of a specific developing piece without giving free looks into the product and breaking the surprise? When are the velvet ropes too much, and when are they an insubstantial illusion?

    I, for one, am eagerly awaiting the guided tour into your process and method and reasonings. Thanks for offering the ticket.

  4. Anonymous4:19 AM

    I rarely discuss my writing in depth because it would make me sound much like you, "I could strangle my character, he's being so stubborn! angst! angst!"

    And since the list of reasons for which "that blue haired girl is a raving nutter" is already suitably long, I've opted to keep that section of insanity and babble mostly to myself.

    I do love, and will forever giggle over your "women's group speaker" anecdote as quite possibly one of the funniest things I've ever read.

  5. Anonymous4:44 AM

    I use my blog to float ideas about writing for feedback from my other unpublished friends.

    I discuss theories, structures, show-stoppers raised by my novel, but not the novel itself.

    (I also discuss German Longsword and the Joys of Medieval Armour.)

    When/if I manage to become published, I'll probably do pretty much the same, but with slightly better credentials.

  6. I'm actually thinking of doing just that for my next a trial. Don't know how it will work, but it will be more teaser info than an exacting account. I should talk though. My only blog is rather removed from my writing all together so....


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